Victor Ortiz is in the main event on Saturday’s Showtime telecast and many pundits think the Lucas Matthysse-Humberto Soto scrap could steal the Championship Boxing show.
But a battle of top junior middleweight prospects could be the fight of the card at Staples Center.
Jermell Charlo (17-0, 8 knockouts) and Denis Douglin (14-1, 8 KOs) will meet in a high-stakes match early in their careers – a rare occurrence in the boxing these days. Both fighters are under the age of 25 and neither has gone 10 rounds thus far.
Their bout, which will headline the Showtime Extreme boxing coverage (8:00 p.m. ET) before Showtime goes live, figures to be the toughest fight of each man’s career.
“I felt like boxers nowadays take too long to take the big risk … I’d rather take the big risk now and worry about the money later,” Douglin told RingTV.com. “A lot of people are telling me it’s not a smart business move, to take this fight at such an early stage. But this is what the sport needs, honestly.”
Douglin’s manager, the powerful and ubiquitous Al Haymon, concurs with his fighter.
“He thinks it’s a great fight for me, because I’m going to beat him, so he’s happy about it,” Douglin recalled.
The 24 year old from Marlboro, N.J., nicknamed “Da Momma’s Boy” because he is trained by his mother, Saphya, suffered an upset loss last year – stopped by Doel Carrasquillo in three rounds. He rebounded nicely though in 2012, beating previously-undefeated Steven Martinez on ESPN2.
“She’s great at picking out weaknesses in certain opponents,” said Douglin of his unique training situation. “Her training me is great. She helps me with my basics so much and I feel like that’s what a lot of fighters are lacking in – simple stuff – the defense, the head movement, coming in behind a good jab.”
Now he takes another step-up in class to Charlo, a tall, rangy boxer with excellent speed.
“He’s a really good fighter – good boxing technique; (he’s a) good counter puncher,” said Douglin. “He has good hand speed, but I don’t think he’s ever been pushed like I’m gonna push him. We’re gonna see how the pressure affects him. He’s done well under pressure but no one has been able to keep the pressure on him for more than a round or two. I’m going to give him pressure with boxing skills and I don’t think he’s going to be able to handle it.
“I’ve been in this position before, coming in as an underdog, fighting another promoter’s card. If anything he should be a little nervous because I know that I’m his toughest fight and I don’t think he’s ready for it.”
Charlo is 6-feet tall and boasts a 73-inch reach – considerable size for a 154 pounder – and the 22-year-old resident of Houston feels his size will present big problems for the 5-foot-9 Douglin.
“He’s going to see that I’m rangy – I’m really tall,” Charlo told RingTV.com. “I have the ability to keep him on the outside if I want to. He can throw bombs all day, it’s just going to tire him out. He’s never really been in that deep water.”
Charlo, who appeared on ShoBox: The New Generation late last year, stated “this is a tough fight, a tough challenge,” but also doesn’t think that Douglin can defeat him.
“Nothing that Denis will do will give me problems,” said Charlo, who is trained by Ronnie Shields and promoted by Golden Boy. “If Denis pressures me, it’s just going to set him up for failure. You’ll see Saturday that it’s going to make Denis back up. Once he starts seeing that I’m down to fight on the inside – I’m not just going to sit on the outside and box. Once he starts putting pressure on me I’m going to switch to a different style.”
Each fighter is more than confident that victory is ahead. While Charlo cites his size, Douglin points to three specific things.
“My will to win, my conditioning and my ability to adjust,” said Douglin, whose most notable sparring partner for this bout was Kendall Holt. “Those are my three greatest strengths … I can box, I can punch and I can brawl.”
They both believe that a win Saturday would springboard their young careers to bigger and better things.
“This fight is a big fight for me – it’s a big fight for both of us,” said Douglin.” I think whoever wins this fight gets a bigger fight on actual Showtime or HBO. This fight is a big, big win for whoever takes it home.”
Charlo has two fighters in particular he wants to face next, should he secure the win.
“A win would set me up for a fight with James Kirkland,” said Charlo. “Austin Trout would be a nice fight, too.”
The victor will be a player in the loaded junior middleweight division. For the loser, it’s back to the drawing board.
Photo / Jeff Gross-Getty Images
Follow Mike Coppinger on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger